Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and non-review posts here at the Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…
With the growing popularity of Craft Beer by drinkers and the proliferation of smaller/micro/craft breweries across the country, beer festivals seem to happen every weekend. At least throughout the New Jersey/Pennsylvania/New York area, I think it averages out to one beer festival per weekend through October. (While some weekends don’t have any beer festivals, there are multiple weekends where multiple festivals are held).
This past weekend, I (along with my wife, brother-in-law, and his girlfriend) attended the Bacon and Beer Classic in Philadelphia. This was held at the end of Philly Beer week (June 1 to 11). The B and B Classic is nationwide festival held in various cities, one is being held at Citifield in New York, Soldier Field in Chicago last October, and Safeco Field in Seattle a few months ago, among others. I’ve attended quite a few beer festivals (The Garden State Brew Festival for the past five years, a couple of others in Philadelphia), but this was the first that was more than beer. In the end, that uniqueness compared to the other festivals I attended was what set this one apart. I also really like the taster “glass” we were given, it looks like a red Solo Cup but is made of I’m guessing ceramic.
The festival was held at Schmidt’s Commons, sit of the old Schmidt Brewery. Urban Village Brewing Company, a brewpub that had opened it’s doors a week prior to the festival, is conveniently located at the commons. Dan Goldman, founder of the brewery, was pouring beer: Beach Day Belgian Blonde, which set the bar for the festival and a fantastic Oatmeal Stout. Dan also happened to be on Al Gatullo’s Craft Beer cast a couple of weeks ago.
Next up was the Iron Hart Brewing tent and boy was I surprised with Industrial Lager, the lager they were pouring. I can’t recall tasting a lager with such a pleasant malt/caramel profile. It still maintained the characteristics of the lager, but the higher malt was a nice balance. Also in that immediate area of the Commons was Shiner, pouring their Homespun Cream Ale which was very pedestrian. Root Down was pouring a style not many brewers are making – an Altbier they call 3 Legged Rabbit, which was a nice surprise. Their Pale Wheat, Slag was on the hoppy end for Pale Wheats.
Harpoon was one of the non-Pennsylvania breweries in attendance and they were pouring their UFO Witbier and Camp Wannamango, their Pale Wheat Ale with Mango. I’d had UFO plenty of times previously so passed on it to save room for other beers, but I did go for the Camp Wannamango only once before, so I wanted to give a try on draft. What a wonderful summer beer, the mango is a perfect addition for flavor and sweetness, but not too much sweetness. I need to stock my cooler with this over the summer.
Next to them was venerable PA brewery Weyerbacher, pouring the blonde Mellow Monks (which I’ve had before and enjoyed) and Line Street Pilsner which is a nice crisp pilsner well-suited to summer. Next to them was Green Flash Brewing, pouring an IPA (I passed) and Passion Fruit Kicker, a wheat ale with Passion Fruit. Sweet and tart, the beer borders on sour, but seems well-suited to warm weather.
I made my way to another non-PA brewery after that, Peak Organic Brewing Company from Maine. They were pouring two beers, Summer Session Ale and Fresh Cut. Summer Session Ale is similar to Founders’ All Day IPA but the wheat base cuts the bite of the hops, which is quite welcome. Fresh Cut is the brewery’s flagship beer, a wonderful Pilsner that I wish was available in NJ. It is everything a Pilsner should be for my beer drinking sensibilities, but with slightly less hop bitterness
Out in the center of the commons, Twin Lakes poured an IPA (I passed) and Caesar Rodney Golden Ale a slightly hopped Blonde. One of my favorite breweries, also a non-PA brewery, Great Lakes Brewing was pouring two beers, their Commodore Perry IPA and Turntable Pils, a tasty Pilsner.
Guinness was there pouring some of their staples, including a new Irish Wheat, which was a surprisingly tasty Witbier. I say surprising because their American Blonde is not very drinkable. The only NJ brewery at the festival was Forgotten Boardwalk, I had another try of their Funnel Cake a tasty, but almost too sweet cream ale. Lagunitas, from Californa, was pouring their Pils which is a passable Pilser, but like many of their beers, the hop profile is strong and doesn’t quite sync up with my taste buds.
There’s usually at least one cidery at most of these beer festivals and this was no different – Jack’s Hard Cider was pouring an Apple Hard Cider and Peach Cider. I can’t recall ever seeing Peach cider, but this was really tasty. The Peach was a nice sweet addition to the apple base.
I closed out my beer tastings with two from venerable Philadelphia brewery Saint Benjamin’s Brewing Company. I’ve had their Wit or Witout in the past, but during that session, they were pouring Franklin’s Abbey Dubbel, a Belgian Dubbel and quite good and Inca a cream ale. I think I’ll need to visit this brew pub on a future visit to Philadelphia.
One food guy was grilling up sliders which were great. Hormel, one of the main sponsors, was giving out what seemed to be all varieties of their bacon (about 6 or 8 in total) and some delicious pork belly. Some other bacon samplings included bacon wrapped hush puppies, bacon/fish tasters, fried bacon mac and cheese, and bacon topped waffles.
While I didn’t have quite as many different beers at this festival as I have at other festivals (over 35 at this past year’s Garden State Brewfest), the quality was very good across the 18 I did have. Also, plenty of bacon samples and bacon infused/dishes. I’d definitely give this one another try, maybe even in New York next year as the event is held in many locations.